Santana delights with memorable show in Mansfield
A review of Carlos Santana, Steve Winwood at the Comcast Center on July 23, 2010
Many fans would have braved Friday’s torrential downpour to see either Steve Winwood or Carlos Santana in concert, but the combination of the two brought thousands to the Comcast Center, buzzing with an excitement that the rain could not diminish. And they were not disappointed. Preceded by Winwood’s rousing opening set, the Latin rock legend and his band delivered a rocking, dynamic, and inspiring show that more than lived up to his legacy.
Many rock bands are like a bowl of soup. To illustrate this rather odd comparison, imagine the lead vocalist and guitarist as the actual soup, and the rest of the band – the drummer, bassist, and so on – as the bowl that holds your liquid meal. You know the bowl is a necessary thing; without it, there is nothing to hold the soup together, and you’re left with a complete mess. But at the same time, the bowl is as inconspicuous as it is essential. You don’t notice it because you’re too busy tasting the soup, with its succulent vocals and head-banging guitar solos. Likewise, the rhythm and support members of a rock band typically take a backseat to their flashier counterparts. But this is not the case with Santana; every instrument, from bass to drums to Latin percussion and even horns, plays an active and prominent part. This is one of the beauties of Latin rock, and Santana exemplifies it magnificently. Fans arrived at the Comcast Center on Friday night to see guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana, but it was his supporting cast that made the night such a success.
The band opened with “Yaleo”, each member playing a brief solo before the Latin icon himself sauntered onto the stage to deliver a ripping solo. Though his surrounding lineup got a lot of hands clapping and feet stomping that night, the prowess of Santana himself cannot be downplayed. His fretwork is as phenomenal as it has ever been over the course of his forty-year career, and he wowed fans time and time again with furious solos in songs like “Black Magic Woman”, “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts”, and a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Were 9”. This was not the only cover the band would play that night, as the crowd would also get a taste of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”.
Santana used “Corazón Espinado” as an opportunity to share the spotlight with his fellow band members, and the following solos turned the song into one of the show’s highlights. Two in particular stood out, as bassist Benny Rietveld and drummer Dennis Chambers received such tumultuous applause that the band was in danger of being drowned out. Grinning ear to ear (and barefoot), Rietveld delivered a catchy melody, followed by a series of nimble fretwork rarely seen on a bass guitar, turning the sound of four strings into fourteen. Chambers’s following solo was just as electrifying, his drumming as furious as the lion depicted on his bass drum. He slowed momentarily, pausing between each strike of the drum, as fellow percussionist Raul Rekow approached from behind and comically dealt a hand of poker on the drumhead. Chambers showed the camera a hand of aces, grinned, then resumed his lively solo.
The band’s percussion members also showed a unique ability to play an active part without the distinction of the spotlight. This quality was especially present in “Jingo”; though Santana filled the song with his lively riffs from beginning to end, the percussion really shined through. The congas, tambourines, maracas, and even shekere turned the song into an example of Latin rock at its finest. It was nearly impossible for fans to remain in their seats, and the Comcast Center became a sea of dancing bodies moving with a certain grace and passion than can only be unleash through Latin rock. By the time the band had played through their hits “Oye Como Va” and “Smooth”, and returned for an encore featuring “Into The Night”, hardly a single person was left sitting.
Though Santana left the majority of the singing to Tony Lindsay and Andy Vargas, he was very vocal over the course of the night, taking the microphone several times to address the crowd. At first it was simply to dedicate the band’s ultimate dance song, “Foo Foo”, to the ladies in the crowd, but later on it took a more serious and emotional undertone. While pausing partway through “Evil Ways”, Santana approached the microphone with a message of peace and love that was also very political. He called on President Obama to remember his promise to end the war in Iraq, and to devote more funding to education. While the potentially controversial statement was well received, he ended the discourse on a less political note, proclaiming that each person is a beacon of light and love. The speech was well done; Santana openly advocated his beliefs, without offering anything too contentious, and concluded with a reminder that we all share a goal of world peace.
English singer-songwriter Steve Winwood put on an entertaining opening set, impressing fans with his talent on both piano and guitar. At age 62, his voice has not changed one bit since his rise to fame with Eric Clapton. He also provided some nice solos, on both instruments, in “Dirty City” and “The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys”. A lot of fans would have liked to hear “Back In The High Life”, but his hits “Higher Love’ and “Gimme Some Lovin’” were enough to suffice.